Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Crist Should Veto SB 2080

“Imagine if a county administrator in Florida could make development decision in secret, without asking the county commissioners?  Only if the administrator denied a request would the commissioners have a say.”  That’s the question the Palm Beach Post asked in a recent editorial.  They were speaking, of course, in reference to SB 2080, which is currently sitting on the desk of Gov. Charlie Crist.

SB 2080 would eliminate public hearings that take place before the governing boards of Florida’s five water management districts and place one individual—an appointed executive director—completely in control over the approval process for removing water from Florida’s aquifer and rivers.  In fact, if this legislation had been passed (and signed into law) during the last legislative session, the hundreds who turned out to oppose the recent request from Seminole County to drain 5.5 million gallons of water per day from the St. Johns river…well, there would have been no hearing for them to speak at.  The withdrawal would have simply been approved by the Executive Director and the public would have had no input.

Volusia County Council Member Andy Kelly is one of those opposed to the new legislation.  He told the West Volusia Beacon that he had concerns over the political pressures that would be exerted on water-management executive directors when large, for-profit developers came requesting permits.

“I know that I wouldn’t want to be in that position,” Kelly told the Beacon.  “I would deny each one, so that it would go back to the Governing Board for public input and broad public discussion.”

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton has been one of the rare Jacksonville politicians that have spoken up in opposition to this dangerous legislation.  Peyton penned a letter to Charlie Crist asking him to veto the bill.

As Jacksonville’s Riverkeeper so clearly states, this bill is a “poison pill” and should be vetoed.  Voice your concerns with the Governor by e-mailing him at Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com or calling him at 850-488-7146.

Let your voice be heard.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , ,

Seminole County Wants More Than Our Water

Seminole County wants more than Jacksonville’s water.  They’ve now decided they desperately need our tourism dollars as well.  Fresh off their victory over Duval, Putnam and St. Johns County in their bid to draw up to 5 million gallons of water per day from the St. Johns River, Seminole County has begun advertising in North Florida’s largest media outlet—The Florida Times-Union—seeking visitors to “Florida’s Natural Choice.”  Of course, the ads don’t mention that they manage to bring “Nature Nearer” by sucking it straight out of North Florida’s most treasured natural resource—the St. Johns River.  I don’t know about you, but until Seminole County has embraced conservation and solved their water shortage issues without causing irreprable harm to Florida’s ecosystem, I think I’ll choose to spend my tourism dollars elsewhere.  The ads are below… Read the rest of this entry »

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Save the St. Johns River!

It’s not too late to make your voice heard on Seminole County’s plan to draw nearly a billion gallons of water from the St. Johns River each year.  The only way for Jacksonville’s residents to make their voices heard on this issue is to attend the meeting of the St. Johns River Water Management District in Palatka on Monday:

 Monday, April 13th at 1:00 p.m. 
SJRWMD Headquarters
4049 Reid Street
Palatka, FL 32177

St. Johns Riverkeeper will be providing bus transportation from Jacksonville to Palatka. To reserve a seat on the bus, e-mail Neil Armingeon, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, at narming@ju.edu and type “Bus Trip” in the subject line.

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Public Must Attend SJRWMD Meeting to Offer Input

The St. Johns River Water Management District has decided that the only way for the public to comment on their pending decision in regards to Seminole County’s efforts to drain millions of gallons of water per day from the St. Johns River will be to attend the meeting in person.  After becoming aware of an effort by the Riverkeeper to encourage citizens to e-mail the District’s Board Members to voice their opposition, the District installed new software that will seek to block all incoming e-mails that address the issue.  The District expressed concerns about Board Members having “ex parte” communications in regards to pending decisions and warned Riverkeeper to stop soliciting e-mails in regards to the Seminole County decision.

Because of their decision, the only way for the public to offer input in regards to Seminole County’s efforts to draw billions of gallons of water each year will be to attend the meeting, which is scheduled for April 13, 2009 at 1pm at the District’s Palatka headquarters.  Mayor Peyton, the St. Johns Riverkeeper and St. Johns County are scheduled to address the Board, as well as Seminole County.  At 2:15, members of the public who have not been involved in the hearing process will be allowed to speak.  The Board is scheduled to reach a final decision by 4pm.

The e-mails that outline the District’s decision to filter e-mails from the public are below:

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Jacksonville, , , , ,

Mayport Cruise Terminal up for public hearing and vote

From the TU:

ISSUE: Mayport cruise ship terminal

 What it means: There will be a public hearing and vote on three separate bills that pave the way for a cruise ship terminal to be built in Mayport. The bills address the land use, zoning and Jacksonville Port Authority master plan changes.

 Bill No. 2008-892, 2008-893 and 2008-970

Let’s follow the JPA’s trail of folly to figure out how the Cruise Ship Terminal ended up being proposed for Mayport.

The problem:  the Port wanted to expanded their operations (Mitsui and Hanjin) without enough available land.  Hmmm…let’s see, they said, we can just move the Cruise Terminal and put Hanjin where the Cruise Terminal was located.  But where to put the Cruise Terminal?  Where?  Where?  They had to have a piece of land for Hanjin.

Let’s take a look at the places the POrt has considered for the Cruise Terminal.  First, they decided to put the Cruise Terminal near the Timucuan Preserve at the Joe Carlucci Boat ramp, but they neglected to tell Barbara Goodman, the federal overseer for the Preserve.  She fought it like a cat taking a bath.  The Heckscher Drive Community Club and  Save Our River Environment joined her.  My favorite quote from the battle is Neil Armingeon, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, who said at the time:  “The Port is either very ignorant or very naive.”   I would submit they are both.

Then, they decided on a piece of property owned by a Mr. Zion.  Unfortunately, they neglected to tell Mr. Zion first ,and as it turned out, he was not a willing seller.  JPA tried a quick take of Keystone Coal owned land, but the cost for the land ran into the tens of millions of dollars, and so they dropped that.  They also tried leasing land from the Navy.  You can read about that here.

Having lost those battles, the Port wandered the shores of the St. Johns River looking for a place for the Cruise Terminal that wouldn’t raise such a fuss for ships 20 stories high (with tall stacks that belch smoke and clanging bells and loudspeakers that call for passengers) along with a parking garage 5 stories high.  When along came the Mayor’s old friend, John Rood, and his company Vestcor. 

JPA  bought Vestcor’s property without so much as a blink and began their efforts in earnest to bring the Cruise Terminal to Mayport.  Unfortunately, they forgot to talk to the Mayport residents first.  Business as usual for Port officials.  And now the Mayport residents are in the fight of their life to preserve the fishing village.

City Council will take up the matter tonight.  I wonder how willing any of them would be to have the Cruise Terminal in their back yard?

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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